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25+ of The Best Photo Shoot Locations in North County San Diego (Master List)

25+ of The Best Photo Shoot Locations in North County San Diego (Master List)

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With the known fact that we live in one of the most aesthetically appealing natural backdrops our country has to offer; finding a place to capture the beauty of you and your loved ones is easy. Whether you use your own camera, a smartphone with a fancy filter, or hire a professional, your only dilemma will be gathering everyone together at the same place and time. Follow our guide for inspiration, and don’t forget to tag us #YourNorthCounty!


There are a few things to think about before taking your annual family portrait.

Here are a few tips for great pics:

  • Take a look at several photographer’s sites. Make sure that the photographer you choose has a portfolio of portraits that fit your taste and the images you are hoping to get out of a session.
  • Dress in comfortable clothes that reflect your personality. There’s no need to wear matching outfits. Think beyond the jeans-and-white-shirts look. Choose a color scheme that will make for a more interesting palette.
  • Make sure everyone has eaten. It isn’t fun to be taking pictures when you’re hungry. Just in case, carry some cheese sticks or nuts to feed the kids, if your photo session is in between meals.
  • Get haircuts done at least a week before having pictures taken. Make the appointments at the same time as you secure your portrait session.
  • Consider outdoor places for your family portrait. Being outdoors provides a warm glow of natural light that makes everyone look healthy and happy, and a relaxed environment will help even the most camera shy member feel comfortable in front of the lens.

The background that you choose for this photo is a big part of the story you tell about your family. Lucky for all of us, North County offers many beautiful backdrops to choose from.

4th Street Beach

Cliffs, a bluff, the coastline, train tracks, palm trees; it doesn’t get any more picturesque than this piece of Del Mar for your beach photoshoot. Stroll down the trail at sunset and splash in the rising tide of memories to last a lifetime.

Solana Beach Station

Catch the sun rising or setting and enjoy the architecture of the half-moon shaped concrete landmark. Adjust the shutter speed on your lens in and check the train schedule for the Coaster to speed by and snag a very cool photo opportunity.

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve

Proudly boasting the fact that this is one of the largest coastal wetlands in San Diego, you’ll find wildflowers, rare and endangered bird species, a salt marsh, running trails, and beautiful coastal sage scrub to enjoy and immerse yourself in for an afternoon. And plan for just that, a full afternoon, as it spans over 1000 acres.

San Diego Botanical Gardens

With 37 acres of grounds to cover including rare bamboo groves, a fruit garden, desert and tropical rainforest areas, and nearly 3,000 varieties of tropical, subtropical and California native plants; we are so thankful digital advances have allowed us to not run out of film.

Pannikin Coffee & Tea

With lifestyle photoshoots gaining popularity; the Pannikin building is the original train station for Encinitas and this historic building is a local and tourist attraction for its charm, coffee, and freshly baked pastries.

Tide Pools at Swamis

Check the schedule for low tide and have fun exploring the home of brightly colored starfish, coral, crabs and sea urchins galore. Forcing a smile won’t be necessary with your camera focused on capturing the joy on curious little faces.

Self Realization Fellowship and Meditation Gardens

The once famous home of Yoga Nanda; the Father of Yoga in the West founded this center and designed the adjacent gardens. Visitors can enjoy the cliff views, an abundance of tropical plants, koi ponds, streams and complete silence for a deep meditative experience. Capturing the moment as it calls you will happen at every turn.

The Heritage Ranch – Home of The San Dieguito Heritage Museum

Step into the home of the community’s carefully preserved artifacts, records, and stories. Expect old fire trucks, horse-drawn carriages, wildflowers, replica old wild west town complete with a general store.

Solterra Winery & Kitchen

Wood Beams, oak barrels, industrially inspired fixtures and rustic wood floors; you’ll almost be convinced you’re in a Napa winery. A great spot for a relaxed meal, glass of local vino, and a little bit of a hipster lifestyle photo shoot.

Olivenhain Colony

“This area [Olivenhain] is for people who want that rustic look to their photos,” says Shannon. The Olivenhain Town Hall’s wooden facade makes a for a fantastic backdrop, for example, but there are other spots nearby that are complimented by eucalyptus trees.

Carlsbad Beach Lifeguard Tower 30

Start by taking photos on the bluffs and working down toward the beach, but only if wandering toddlers aren’t in tow. (Parents may stress about the drop-off and that’s definitely not what you want during a shoot.)

The beach here offers plenty to work with between the bluffs, ocean, lifeguard tower and jetty.

Carlsbad Flower Fields

For a limited time (March to May) the famous Carlsbad Ranch Flower Fields are open to the public. Boasting row upon row of vibrant yellows, reds, pinks, and purples and even some sections get a little crafty and layout designs. Get in the country mood and have a little fun jumping on the old tractor.

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

The Omni gifts guests and visitors with the feeling of a being transported to a well-manicured Spanish village. Rolling greens, giant palms, statement pillars adorn the buildings and water fountains sputtering promises of wishes to come true.

Oceanside Pier

At sunrise or sunset, the infamous golden hour calls you to this quintessential coastal California location. The legs of the pier mirrored in the tide at sunset might steal the attention of your lens, but that’s a chance you might be willing to take.

Oceanside Harbor

A quaint and colorful lighthouse, sailing boats, fishing boats, brightly painted shops, buoys and the sea. This backdrop says beach life in a more contemporary way and offers the lens holder a multitude of subjects to capture.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

One of the few historical buildings in North County, the Mission was founded in 1798 and features Spanish Colonia architecture. It also gets bragging rights as one of the largest missions out of the twenty-one built in the Alta California Province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Needless to say, this well maintained location lets you choose among the deeply rich gardens, church, archways, and courtyards for a cultural feel in your shoot.

Heritage Park Village & Museum

Buildings from the 1900s are preserved and kept relevant in this well-maintained park and museum. Perfectly situated in the center of the park; the gazebo calls you in for an escape from the sun and offers a classic backdrop.

Old Poway Park

Wander through this property and get lost in the variety of backdrops to utilize and still life to capture. Or, jump on the train and ride through the park instead to scope out the historical buildings, train depot, and museum areas.

Webb Park

A quaint park that is hidden behind an industrial office area and the 15 freeway offers a little escape to peacefully watch the turtles, koi, and ducks enjoying the man-made pond. Shady areas draw you in with cool grass below for this nature-inspired location.

San Diego Wild Animal Park

With much more room for the animals to roam you’ll feel like you’re on a safari and with photography skills, you might even be able to convince your friends you were! Get a reservation for the unique opportunities such as the tours and the zip line.

The Ranch at Bandy Canyon

Channel your inner rustic country girl or boy and take your time scout out your favorite spot in this dreamy country spot. With a history spanning back to the 1870s and over 144 acres, you will be hard-pressed to pick choose only one area. As one of San Diego’s best kept secrets, you’ve got old buildings, tall grass, and even a tree swing to play with.

Double Peak Park

Capture panoramic shots of all of North County from the top of this peak; from Carlsbad to Catalina Island. You can hike one of the many trails spanning this 200-acre location or drive to the top.

Jacks Pond Park

Playgrounds, a field with native plants and flowers, hiking trails, a beautiful red barn, park benches, and grassy areas cover this 23-acre gem of a park.

Potato Chip Rock

A local favorite at the end of a steady 7.5-mile hike is the natural landmark aptly dubbed Potato Chip Rock. Not only will you marvel at the fact that it can hold your weight for a cool photo but also the beautiful lake adjacent to it.


Crystal Hilsley Crystal also writes at Crystal Clear Health and Crystal Clear Kids and lives in Encinitas with her “mini – me”; they are both proud advocates for kids teaching them the difference between real food and fake food. You’ll find her tearing up San Diego: sweating it out in hot yoga, kicking sand at the beach, wake surfing, and savoring a craft latte which is a daily habit she has no intention of giving up. Ever.


Katie Dillon Katie writes La Jolla Mom, a lifestyle site focused on parenting, luxury travel, cooking with kids, home management, and local happenings. When not traveling, she lives in the seaside community of La Jolla, CA with her 7-year-old fashionista, dog, and husband.